Stonewalling the Public: A How-To Guide

Government officials looking to limit access to public information now have a corporate ally eager to assist: Chris Ryan, a self-styled "internationally recognized media consultant and trainer," and head of Ryan & Associates Public Relations, based in Phoenix, Ariz. Ryan's company offers a host of public information-related courses -- many specifically geared toward law enforcement entities -- designed in part to aid officials in stalling the public's access to public information. For example, in Ryan's class titled "Freedom of Information for Law Enforcement," students will learn a host of effective strategies for spinning folks away from public info, including: "how ambiguous public records laws can help you stall for time," "the art of talking without saying anything," and "how to decline information requests more effectively."

His company conducted a media relations course in Dallas in June, hosted by the Dallas Police Department. At press time, the Chronicle had not yet learned whether any officials from Austin had forked over the $295-per-student fee to attend the two-day class. But Ryan's Web site, www.homelandsecuritycourses.com, features a host of positive testimonials from former students. For instance, gushes Officer Julie Brooks of Golden, Colo., "Mr. Ryan did great at putting us on the spot to teach us how to avoid falling prey to reporters looking for a story."

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